When I was a child, I looked forward to mud. I can still remember how it felt under my fingernails and between my toes. As soon as the snow melted, the yard was full of mud. My mother said, “Stay out of the mud.”
I went outside in my bare feet. I sunk into the cool, spring earth. I knelt down and made squishy houses that disappeared with rivulets of water that oozed everywhere. I made roads, channels and dams with stones and sticks. I controlled the world unfolding in my back yard. By the time I went inside, my knees were baked in mud that hurt when my mom scrubbed at me with a cold washcloth.
I had to undress in the garage and run on tiptoes to the shower. Running on tiptoes prevents too much mud from falling. But I always left a trail and my mother vacuumed her way behind me.
I went to the frog pond this morning and sunk into mud that filled my tennis shoes so thick that I struggled to pull my foot out with a loud sucking sound. One shoe came off and I had to reach in and get it. Just as I started to feel annoyed, that distant but familiar, childhood joy came over me. The freedom of mud. I remembered my human right to get dirty and revel in the essence of the earth.
I noticed that the frogs can plop in the mud and it flows right off their backs. They stay slippery and loose. They kick each other and nobody cares, no one takes it personally. Life is messy.
Some ducks showed up. Their webbed feet skid over the mud like it isn’t even there. I’ll have to practice that. Sometimes we don’t mind sinking into the mud but it’s nice to know that we can skim over the messy stuff when we need to.
When I got home my shoes were so caked in mud I considered throwing them away. They’re old. I could use a new pair.
On second thought, I won’t throw the muddy shoes away. I’ve walked past them in the garage a couple of times already and it makes me happy: memories of mud and a chance to sink in again. The mud won’t last, it never does.